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By Hamish


As I installed 2×1 metre square raised beds, I of course needed compost. In one I put non-peat compost in the other a peat based compost. (B&Q £10 for 2).
Then of course I waited to see if there was any difference.
Non peat poor growth and crops, peat based good growth and crops.
same story with seeds and potting on, peat based gives better results.
So sorry eco warriors( or is it facists) Its peat based compost for me because being on a low income I can’t afford poor crops.
How do others feel, and have you done better with non peat compost.

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I read an article by Peter Seabrook this week who found he had the same results as you did. He made the point that peat is being deliberately made, it is now like a sustainable resource, so maybe we can stop feeling guilty when we use peat-based composts. I tried some peat free compost for flower seedlings and they just didn't grow properly. I do also compost everything I can to enrich our soil to minimise the amount I have to buy. We can only do our best and it is a waste of time, money and effort to use inferior products.

9 Sep, 2007


tks, nice to know others have the same prob. I agree we can anly do our best and try new things but abandon if they dont work.

10 Sep, 2007


Hi Hamish, I'll confess now that I probably fall into the eco-warrior camp and I wouldn't use peat based compost in my garden. Having said that I've not experienced the merits of each (nor will I) but I am in the fortunate position that I garden for gardening's sake, not because I need the crops; although I enjoy them a lot more than bought veg, successful crops are not vital to me.

As for performance on non-peat based compost I have been happy with my first year of growing but I don't know if there are plants which require richer compost.

11 Sep, 2007


tks for comments, I do try to be eco friendly, but I'm not sure if every thing we are told is correct, I like to find things out for myself. In somerset we have local peat moors so it is quite an issue here.

11 Sep, 2007


Hamish, could you make your own compost from kitchen waste? it costs nothing,

11 Sep, 2007


yes I do, and I recycle as much as I can. In Sedgemoor we have a composting facilty and the compost is sold back to people. It was just I wanted to do an experment to see If the claim that non peat compost is as good if not better than peat based, was true. For me the claim is not true.

12 Sep, 2007


If I do need to buy compost, I always go for peat-based, but only if I know (like wood) it is from sustainable sources. peat-based saves a fortune (in time, energy and water bills) in maintenance. I also like to compare my native Scotish peat industry to the cork producing industry of Portugal - so many plant and insect species rely on it and its human management for survival. If the product states that it is from a regenerable and managed source, I am happy to use it. Anything else is - a stated by others - false economy, and detrimental to another valuable resource - water!

13 Sep, 2007


good point , local somerset peat producers are following a similar system, I believe

14 Sep, 2007


Peat based compost is not an option here unless you sell a kidney to pay for it!! Most gardens around us are mainly veggie patches with a few flowers but things are slowly changing. The soil seems to be good enough on it's own for excellent crop yields with just a bit of feed added as and when they feel like it haha
Our local town hall provides compost bins for free to encourage recycling.

14 Sep, 2007


yes, when I had an allotment I never used peat only compost (home) and manure. For raise beds I need to buy in "soil" hence the experiment.

15 Sep, 2007


Hi Hamish, I've used one bag to three non peat composts in my raised beds - I think if you are using the raised beds for veggies you need the peat to give the soil a bit of help. Every non based peat compost I've used seems to dry out really quickly and the nutriants seem to go with them. Mel's mix (Square Foot Gardening recommends a lot more peat than I would have used) the ideal is that after it rains you shouldnt be left with puddles but the ground should hold the water. He uses vermiculite to open up the soil also - its trying various things to see if they help but I do agree with you - my crops do better with peat, but use it only where needed and top up with home made compost, and also worm compost (to help the bacteria which keeps the soil fresh). Good luck with the veggies.

20 Sep, 2007


I don't see a need for peat composts in the garden - if making a raised bed the council compost and rotted manure and your own garden compost would be just as good. Peat has no goodness or fertility in it - it just has a good structure - which is why it is so useful for us growing plants in pots and seedtrays - if we can cut down on pot-grown plants by having a seedbed outdoors, using cloches etc and not having so many baskets etc (unless peat-reduced!) we could cut down our peat use. The other use for it is too 'acidify' the ground by adding it to enable us to grow ericacious plants when our soil is not ideal - azaleas etc (i too am guilty of this!) but we could just grow plants that suit our soil - and appreciate the others when we visit friends gardens! I still use a 50:50 mix of peat compost and loam for any pot plants - i don't see it as environmentally better to use coir etc - it is just nicking a resource from a poorer country for our hobbies! Peat is very good as a base for composts etc - but we can and should try and limit our use of it - so no more azaleas for me then!!!!

5 Oct, 2007


tks for your comments, I feel we have had a good discussion on this subject, with much to think about

6 Oct, 2007


did you use soil and a feed of blood fish bone ?
then cover the gaps between rows, after plants are settled in, with semi rotted compost you get from garden/kitchen waste, newspaper and leaves
always let the clover grow for green crops, it locks nitrogen into the soil
get a leaky pipe to water with
don't bother with peat, can always spend the money you save on a new plant or packet of seeds
I put raw kitchen waste and newspaper into the bottom of mine when I built it and seems to be doing ok after over a year.

18 Jul, 2009


Unlike some of those posting comments, I find non-peat compost very good - perhaps you need to try different varieties of non-peat compost from different 'manufacturers'.

I tried putting a mix of 1 x 60 litre bag of non-peat compost per 1 x bag of John Innes soil-based compost in the greenhouse bed under my staging, and this produced excellent spring and summer lettuce crops. It was equally good for greenhouse tomatoes, though for them under this mix I usually put a mix of farmyard manure and home-made compost first. I change the whole bed about every 3 years, and sprinkle chicken manure pellets liberally between crops as well.
Doing this, the tomatoes don't seem to need much water, and the roots run for yards in this!

11 Oct, 2009

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